Pithoragarh

Pithoragarh

Pithoragarh, a city with a Municipal Board in the Pithoragarh district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, was carved out of district of Almora in 1962.

Geography

Pithoragarh is located at . It has an average elevation of 1,514 metres (4,967 feet).

Overview

Pithoragarh is a small town, which gives its name to the district. It lies in the centre of the western half of the Soar Valley which resembles the Kashmir valley on a miniature scale. It is prettily dotted with villages, generally placed on eminences. The view from Pithoragarh is very fine as all the peaks of Panch Chulhi, Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot are visible from high spots in the town.

The town is set in a valley popularly known as "Soar"(root meaning is Cool) and lies in the centre of four hills Chandak, Dhwaj, Kumdar and Thal Kedar, and stretches in the southern flank to Jhulaghat demarcated by the Kali river adjoining the barren peaks of Nepal Hills. It is snuggled in the folds of four kots Bhatkot, Dungerkot, Udaikot and Unchakot.

Pithoragarh, is known as the gateway to the Himalaya's from the north, as pilgrims trek through this town to the Kailash Lake Manasarovar and Om Parwat.

History

In 1841 Pilgrim (Barron), while passing through Pithoragarh, wrote : "... The first view of Pithoragarh is striking, in one instant, when you reach the top of the pass (Chandak) which overlooks it, a wide valley bursts on the view, with the small neat military cantonment, fort and scattecyan villages, and meandering streams, which distribute fertility to thousands of well cultivated fields.... I was apprehensive, too, that the beauties of Nainital had exhausted the store, and found that I was never in my life more mistaken."

After its conquest by the Rajwar of Ukko Bhartpal in the year 1364, Pithoragarh was for the whole of the remaining 14th century ruled by three generations of Pals. The kingdom extended from Pithoragarh to Askot. According to a tamrapatra (brass plate inscription) dating back to 1420, the Pal dynasty was uprooted by the Brahm dynasty of Nepal but subsequently, following the death of Gyan Chand in a conflict with Kshetra Pal, the supremacy of Pal dynasty was restored.

It is believed that Bhartichand, an ancestor of Gyan Chand, had replaced Pals, the ruler of Pithoragarh, after defeating them in 1445. In the 16th century, the Chand dynasty again took control over Pithoragarh town and built a new fort, in the year 1790, on the hill where the present Girls Inter College is situated. Subsequently, under the British rule, Pithoragarh remained a Tehsil under Almora district until it was elevated to a district in the year 1962.

While the above narration cannot be authenticated, the fact is that "the district is named after its headquarters town, Pithoragarh. Tradition has it that during the reign of the Chand rajas of Kumaon, one Piru, also called Prithvi Gosain, built a fort here and named it Prithvigarh which in, in course of time, got changed into Pithoragarh."

Places of interest

Once the bastion of the Chand rulers, Pithoragarh town is littered with temples and forts belonging to that era.

The town had two forts one of which has been demolished, its place being taken by the Government Girls’ Intermediate College building. The building of the other fort houses the treasury and the tahsil. Other places of interest in Pithoragarh are Patal Bhuvaneshwar[Gangolihat], Chandak, Dewalthal, Dharchula, Munsiyari and Kali Mandir of Gangolihat. Kumaon University College is the main educational institution in the district for higher studies.

About 5 km. from the place there is a small and beautiful place named Chandag which houses an asylum for lepers. It is said that a goddess killed two devils, Chand and Mund, at this place. The episode gave the place the name Chandghat, Chandag appearing to be its corruption.

Pithoragarh Fort: It is set atop a hill on the outskirts of the town. The fort was built by the Gorkhas in 1789.

Kapileshwar Mahadev (3 km): The cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva affords fine view of the Soar valley and lofty Himalayan peaks.

Around Pithoragarh

Chandak (8 km) :The beautiful hill affords a fine view of the Himalayas. The Manu Temple here is highly revered by the locales.

Dhwaj Temple: This famous shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Maa Jayanti and is 10 km by road and 4 km on foot from Pithoragarh. It also commands a breath taking view of the snow capped peaks.

Thal Kedar (16 km) : This Shaivite pilgrim site is also known for its scenic splendour. During the annual fair of Shivratri large number of devotees flock to Thal Kedar.

Nakuleshwara (10 km): It is believed that Nakuleshwara Temple was built by Nakul and Sahdev (two brothers of Pandavas). The place is located at Athgaon Shilling area.

Askot Sanctuary: The scenic sanctuary 54 km from Pithoragarh nestles at a height of 5412 ft. in Kumaon Himalayas and is popular among wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. It is a safe haven for snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, musk deers, snow cocks, tahra, bharals, mona/s, chirs, koklas, pheasants and chukors. The lush sanctuary area dotted with temples is also a fine place to view the beauty of the Himalayas.

Chaukori: The small hill town affords balmy weather and great views of snowclad peaks. The entire area teems with tea gardens and orchards. It is 112 km from Pithoragarh via Gangolihat and Berinag.

Gangolihat: The sacred site is famous for the Hatkalika Fair held on the ashtami of Chaitra month at the Kalika temple. Devotees visit the shrine during this time with drums and flags to pay homage to Goddess Kalika.

Chaukori Trekking Routes. Following are the three popular trekking routes. 1. Chaukori - Berinag - Patal Bhuwaneshwar - Gangolihat (3 days). 2. Chaukori - Kotbaniya - Dharmghar - Gangolihat (3 days). 3. Chaukori - That - Pithoragarh (2 days)

Jhulaghat : This small town on the Indo-Nepal border is named after a hanging bridge on the Kali river. One can enter Nepal through this bridge. The small market here deals in Nepali goods and other electronic items.

Narayan Ashram : The ashram was established by Narayan Swami in 1936, about 136 km north of Pithoragarh and 14 km from Tawaghat. This spiritual cum-socio educational centre is set at an altitude of 2734 metres amidst scenic surroundings. It has a school for local children's and imparts training to local youth. There is also a library, meditation room and samadhi sthal.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar: Patal Bhubaneshwar, literally means the sub-terranean shrine of Lord Shiva. The cave temple is 91 km from Pithoragarh and 14 km north of Gangolihat. The way to the temple is through a tunnel which leads into the cavern through a narrow dark passage of water. The electrified sanctum sanctorum is deep inside the cave. The main passage also leads to several small caves where water oozing from limestone rocks have created various shapes arid figures. Some of them resemble various gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon. In fact cave temple complex is said to be the abode of thousands of deities and people believe that these deities were consecrated by Adi Shankracharya. Large number of pilgrims visit the shrine during the fair of Maha Shivratri. More about Patal Bhuvaneshwar

Munshyari: Munshyari a small Himalayan township about 127 km north of Pithoragarh and 66 km from Jauljibi. It nestles at an elevation of 2135 metres and the entire region is known as Johar valley. Munshyari is a base for treks to Milam and Namik glaciers. The trek from Munshyari to Milam Glacier, the source for Goriganga river is fascinating. Around Munshyari are alpine lakes of Maheshwari Kund and Thamri Kund. Munshyari Bugyal, an alpine meadow full of wild flowers is enchanting. Khalia Top and Betulidhar are suited for skiing.

In popular culture

The small town has been extensively described in a novel by American author Bradley Swift titled From Pithoragarh to Pittsburgh.

References

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